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Stories from the valley

Even the Ducks cry foul!

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It must be that it’s going to rain. It is not the clouds in the sky or even the forecast of a Godzilla El Niño. I can tell because the winds of irrationalism are beginning to blow stronger – a sure sign that rain is on the way. As soon as it does, the pressure to dismantle the state’s water system will be obscured by clouds heavy with water.

The rain can’t come soon enough. Not only because the parched land and our brown urban lawns are so ready for relief, but also because we have entered the absurd.

Take, for example, a recent ‘expose’ on the water use in California agriculture by Vice entitled Race to the Bottom. It was so bad – even the ducks are crying foul!

The claims – old and tired – have been debunked by fact many times:

  • Ag uses 80 percent of the water – in fact ag uses around 40 percent (less here in the Sacramento Valley at 34%)
  • Farmers didn’t have to cut back their use this year – in fact, farmers cut back significantly. In the case of rice, plantings are down over 30 percent.
  • Aerials new Willows CA, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Photo Brian BaerFarmers use last century technology to irrigate their fields – in fact, farmers use the most modern tools to reduce water use. In the case of rice, we GPS level fields, breed short stature plants and moved production to clay soils that hold water.
  • Among the biggest shading of the truth was the complete snub of the huge wildlife benefits farmers are providing during this drought. Farmers and water distorts are spending their own dollars to improve salmon habitat in the Sacramento Valley. Rice farmers are joining with conservation organizations to provide flooded fields for the fall migration on the Pacific Flyway.

What’s absurd is that here in September, with a hard fourth year of drought nearly behind farmers and urban dwellers alike that some continue to try to make agriculture a scapegoat. That somehow farmers who grow food for people are wrong in what they do.

Solutions will not be found by manufacturing blame and claiming superiority. They will be found in all of us as we conserve, build more storage above ground and below and work to put the pieces in place that will allow our state to better manage they next drought whether it be next year or in a decade to come.